I try to talk about books, but all you want are cupcakes.

A few people have asked me for the recipe for those strawberry cupcakes they saw in my book giveaway post (and that currently grace this site’s header), so I thought I should share!

This is the recipe I use. I usually halve it, but I use a smaller-sized muffin tin and still end up with more than a dozen. (My high-altitude adjustment is to bake them at 365° for about 17 minutes.)

I’ve also been making a different icing, a strawberry-lime-buttercream one (it has to be buttercream in my house because my husband won’t eat cream cheese!). I just beat butter, powdered sugar, a little strawberry puree, and a little lime juice.

Finally, to make each cupcake extra fancy, I put half a hulled strawberry on top and replace its green bit with a mint leaf. 100% edible!

The cupcakes are a bit of a project, but they’re worth it. Happy baking! 🙂

Choose Your Own Adventure Giveaway!

Yep, I’m still finding ways to celebrate the fact that my debut middle-grade novel, The Delicious Double life of Gladys Gatsby, is getting published. (When you have a two-year wait for publication, you need to stretch the fun out as long as you can!)

This past weekend, my husband and I threw a little “Tara has a book deal!” party. It was to be our first party in our not-so-new-anymore abode, and when I mentioned our plans to my mom on the phone she said “Do you know enough people in Colorado to have a party?” Funny, I was wondering the same thing myself.

Luckily, several guests did show up (including my wonderful agency-siblings Jean Reidy, Laura Resau, and Jeannie Mobley!) and we had quite a nice time. I probably should have taken some pictures with them or something (you know, as proof for Mom), but of course I only remembered to take pictures of the food.

Now, how to extend the party even farther? Much as I wish I could bake strawberry cupcakes for the entire world (hm, remember this fiasco?), I think I’ll go a different way and give away…books! Books from my new publisher, Putnam!

And, actually, I meant to do one of these giveaways to celebrate signing with my agent in January, but I never quite got around to it. So I’m going to make this a double giveaway, and also give away books written by fellow clients of the fabulous Erin Murphy Literary Agency!

I’m calling it the Choose Your Own Adventure Giveaway, because TWO lucky winners will get to choose which recently-released or forthcoming book they want from one of these lists.

Putnam books:

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine (MG)
Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958.

Legend by Marie Lu (YA)
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect.

Deadweather and Sunrise (The Chronicles of Egg, Book 1) by Geoff Rodkey (MG, releases 5/29)
Egg’s running for his life in a bewildering world of cutthroat pirates, villainous businessmen, and strange Native legends. The only people who can help him sort out the mystery of why he’s been marked for death are Millicent and a one-handed, possibly deranged cabin boy.

The Vindico by Wesley King (YA, releases 6/14)
The Vindico are a group of supervillains who have been fighting the League of Heroes for as long as anyone can remember. Realizing they’re not as young as they used to be, they devise a plan to kidnap a group of teenagers to take over for them when they retire–after all, how hard can it be to teach a bunch of angsty teens to be evil?


EMLA books:

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats (YA)
1293. Caernarvon, north Wales. Ten years into English rule. Life is good. If you’re English.

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson  (nonfiction)
The little-known story of the 4,000 black elementary-, middle-, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail in Birmingham, Alabama, between May 2 and May 11, 1963.

The False Prince (The Ascendance Triology, Book 1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen (YA)
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince.

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (MG, releases 5/10)
Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she’s blindsided.



To enter, just leave a comment on this post. But you can also earn up to six extra entries by doing the following:

1)  “Liking” the Tara Dairman Author page on Facebook
2)  Adding The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby to your to-read list on Goodreads
3)  Following @TaraDairman on Twitter
4)  Signing up to follow this blog by e-mail (use the button in the top right corner of this page)
5)  Tweeting and/or posting on Facebook about this giveaway.

Sample Tweet:
Win free YA and MG books at @TaraDairman’s Choose Your Own Adventure Giveaway! http://bit.ly/I9S9uj

Sample FB status update:
Win free YA and MG books at Tara Dairman’s Choose Your Own Adventure Giveaway! http://taradairman.com/2012/04/25/choose-your-own-adventure-giveaway

Just let me know in the comments which of these extra things you’ve done, and assuming it checks out, I’ll give you credit! (Clarification: And if you already liked/followed/subscribed/etc. before this contest, you still get the extra entries! Just mention them in your comment. Thanks!)

The contest is open until midnight EST on May 1, and I’ll announce the winners the next day. International entries are welcome. Good luck, and thanks for playing!

Gettin’ my nerd on.

Whoa, two posts in one week? Does this signal the beginning of a new, more rigorous blogging schedule?

Nah. I’ve been too busy drafting a new WIP (that’s “Work In Progress” for the un-writerly-acronym-initiated), so posting here will probably remain somewhat sporadic for a while–though I am hoping to do a nice celebratory book giveaway pretty soon, and definitely have a big interview (with wonderful novelist Ernest Hebert) planned for May.

Speaking of interviews, the excellent Amanda Gardner has graciously featured me in an interview over at her blog, Nerd Couture. Not only does Amanda write great questions, but she’s also the author of one of the funniest first pages I’ve EVER come across in a writing contest–page 1 of her urban fantasy novel Wicked Spirits. I pretty much started stalking her on Twitter as soon as I read that page. 🙂 Anyway, she’s been doing a series of interviews of writers in various stages of the agent-seeking and publishing processes, so if that sounds interesting to you, you’ll probably want to check out her blog.

That’s all from me for this week, but I’ll leave you with some Harry Potter humor, which I stole from Melodie Wright.

Happy Friday!

The Top Seven Things People Ask When They Find Out You Have a Book Deal

It’s been about two weeks since my debut middle-grade novel, The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby, sold to Putnam, and I can’t deny that the experience has been pretty sweet so far. I’ve spoken to my brilliant new editor, Shauna Fay, who fought to acquire the book from day one, and I love all of her editorial suggestions. I’ll probably be getting her official “editorial letter” sometime in the next couple of months, and I’ll work on revisions over the summer.

Anyway, as I’ve broken the good news to family members and friends, I’ve noticed that the same few questions keep popping up again and again…and they’re not necessarily the questions I would have anticipated. If you’d like to know what they are–and what my answers are!–I invite you to read on.

Just as long as it doesn't have a scary face in the sky, I'm cool.

1) What will the cover look like?

The number one thing people seem to be curious about is the cover, and they’re pretty disappointed when they find out how little control I’m going to have over it. I mean, I assume that if I really, really hate it I may have some sort of veto power, but I’m not expecting to have much creative input when it’s conceived. Will it be drawn or photographed? Girly-looking or gender-neutral? I have no idea at this point, and probably won’t for at least a year. Which takes us to question #2…

2) Why is your book not being published until 2014?

Most people have asked this rather politely—with the notable exception of my elementary-aged writing students, who squealed with shock and disbelief when I told them it was going to be a two-year wait before Gladys (which they’ve already read) was in bookstores. One of them now threatens on a regular basis to track down my editors and give them a piece of her mind (Shauna, you may want to screen your calls for an irate 11-year-old).

But it’s a valid question. Why such a long wait? There are a lot of factors that go into deciding when a book will be released, but I’ve been explaining it this way: Publishers release new books in two major “seasons,” fall and spring—like how new collections are released in the world of fashion. My editor thinks that Gladys will stand out more as a spring release (apparently, a lot of big-name authors—like my buddy JKR—release their books in the fall). And since lead times for editing/designing/marketing books are long in publishing, Putnam’s spring 2013 list is pretty much all sewn up. Hence, it’s spring 2014 for Gladys.

Yeah, it’s a long wait. But the good news is that that means we won’t have to rush through the editing process, and there will be lots of time for distributing advance copies to reviewers before the book hits the shelves. Not to mention that it gives me a good amount of down time to work on my next book before I have to shift into promotional mode. Which brings us to question #3…

3) OMG, you’d better get cracking on that sequel!

OK, that isn’t really a question. But a lot of people do assume that the next book I work on should, obviously, be the sequel to Gladys Gatsby. Surely my publisher is chomping at the bit for a book 2, right?

Not exactly. While there are certainly some debut authors who get two- and three-book deals, most publishers want to test out their first-timers with a single book. Then, if it sells well, they’ll sign you up for a couple more in the series.

I’ve already outlined book 2 and my editor and my agent are really enthusiastic about it, so I have high hopes that I will get to write and publish it down the road (you know, in 2025 or thereabouts). But, my dear readers, it seems that that whether that happens will be in large part up to you…so, if you want to see a sequel, make sure you buy plenty of copies of Gladys 1! I’m sure that everyone in your family will want their own copy to, um, dance around the maypole with (or whatever it is that you do for fun in the spring).

4) Will your book be hardcover or softcover? Will there be an e-book?

Yes, yes, and yes (as far as I know). My publisher has bought all of these rights, so I assume that it will be hardback and e-book first, with a paperback printing following sometime down the road. The publisher has also bought audio book rights, so who knows, maybe there will even be an audiobook! I nominate Stephen Fry to read it. 😀 (Yes, I understand that my protagonist is female and not British, but I know he can pull it off—it’s called acting for a reason!)

5) Did you get an advance?

Or, as one friend of mine put it, “Do publishers even pay advances to first-time authors these days?” Thankfully, yes, they still do. No one’s actually come out and asked me how much I’m getting (well, except for a couple of close family members whom I would have told anyway), but if you’re wondering what the usual range is for first-time authors, agent Rachelle Gardner has a good post about that.

6) Can I be in the movie?

I’m actually surprised by how often I get this question—quasi-facetiously from adults and very earnestly from kids. They don’t even ask “Will there be a movie?” or “When does the movie come out?” but jump straight to “Can I be in it?”

Well, from your lips, dear questioners, to the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s ears! Film rights have not been optioned (um, yet!) for the book, and they may never be. Even if they are, that’s no guarantee that a movie will ever be made—hundreds of options on books are bought every year, and very few of them ever actually make it to the big screen.

So, you can cross your fingers, but don’t hold your breath. Of course, I think that Gladys could make a great movie—or TV series, even—but I’m a little biased. Anyway, the end of the book has a big scene at a Broadway theater and another at a crowded restaurant, so if those scenes ever are filmed, and you REALLY want to be an extra…well, here’s hoping!

7) I can’t wait for your book tour!

Again, not a question, but it’s interesting how many people think that every author gets sent on a nationwide book tour by their publisher. I can’t blame them, because I used to think this, too.

The truth is, only the highest-profile authors get sent on all-expenses-paid book tours these days. Which doesn’t mean that I can’t go on my own mini book tour; it just means that I’ll probably be organizing it (and paying for the travel costs) myself.

I’m lucky enough currently to have a pretty flexible working schedule, so if that continues, I’ll definitely plan to do some readings/signings in Colorado (where I live), New York (where my family—and Gladys!—lives), Indiana (where my husband’s family lives), and hopefully Boston and DC (where a lot of my friends live) when the book comes out. Hey, maybe I’ll even throw in a west coast leg with San Fran (where my aunt lives), Seattle (where some family and friends live), and Portland (where Powell’s Books lives!). It’ll all depend on, you know, time and money. But trust me, wherever you live, I’d love to come visit your town–bonus points if I can sleep on your couch and eat your cereal in the morning, too.


So, have any of these answers really surprised you? And do you have any burning questions that I haven’t addressed? Just leave’em in the comments and I’ll do my best to respond!

Do the Happy Waddle

Greetings from Indiana, where I am having a wonderful time getting to know my tiny new niece and nary a green vegetable has passed my lips in three days!

I posted about this on yesterday Facebook and Twitter (and if you have a subscription to Publishers’ Marketplace, it’s possible that you saw it there), but I figured I should put a quick note up here, too, to share that…

I have a book deal!

The Delicious Double Life of Gladys Gatsby will be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Books. This seems particularly fitting, since parts of the novel were drafted in Argentina and South Africa, two countries that feature lovely penguins of their own.

A Magellanic penguin from the Valdes Peninsula, Argentina.

My former favorite penguin--the jackass!--near Cape Town, South Africa.

My new favorite penguin.

Here’s the deal announcement that appeared in PM (click on it for a more readable size).

The whole process could not have gone more smoothly for me, thanks to my fabulous agent Ammi-Joan Paquette and my wonderful new editor, Shauna Fay, whose notes have already made the book so much better. 😀

We’re kind of remote at the moment and my internet access is limited out here, so I’ll have to save all the details for another post next week. In the meantime, feel free to join me and Gladys in a virtual happy penguin-waddle dance!

(Addendum: If you’d like a little more info about the book, check out this announcement at my agency’s website.)

Where the buffalo roam…

We’re going on a road trip!

One week, 2000 miles. Three states I’ve never been to (Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota) and two I’ve spent very little time in (Minnesota, Wisconsin). Here’s our planned route:

Right now, we’re planning to hit Jewel Cave, Crazy Horse, and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota before heading due east through Bismark and Fargo, then turning south to visit friends in southwestern Minnesota and Milwaukee. We’ll end up in my husband’s hometown in Indiana, where we’ll meet our new niece and I’ll be subjected to my first ever Easter Egg hunt (I hear that these things can get pretty violent).

We leave early Tuesday morning, but if you have any suggestions for other places to stop–or, more importantly, regional specialties we must eat–do leave a comment! Do you know where to get the best bison burgers in Bismark? The most marvelous milkshakes in Madison? Unbelievable Uruguyan food in Montevideo, Minnesota? (Yes, there is a Montevideo, Minnesota, and we will be driving through it.) If so, don’t hold out on us. 😀

And the winner of FAIR COIN is…

Pat Zietlow Miller! 😀

Thanks so much to everyone who read the interview with E.C. Myers and entered the giveaway. And for everyone who’s not Pat, the good news is that Fair Coin is now available in bookstores all over the country! I picked up my copy in Boulder on Tuesday…

…and Andy promptly stole it from me and read the whole thing while I was doing freelance work. (He said that it was “very good” and he “really liked it”–and if you know Andy, you know that’s just about the highest praise a book can get!) I can’t wait to dig in myself this weekend.

I have a few more friends with novels coming out this year, so I’ll try to do some more of these interview/giveaway combos. (Like when my bff J.K. Rowling’s new book comes out–I’m sure she’ll be able to swing a few signed advance copies my way. :D)

Get ready to flip for E.C. Myers (and win his book!)

Ooh, boy have I got something good for you today. My friend, querying mentor, and kick-ass writer E.C. Myers is here on the blog to talk to us about his YA Sci-Fi debut novel, Fair Coin, which releases from Pyr this week! And we’re even giving you a chance to win an ARC (advance reader copy), which he’ll sign and personalize himself!


So, yeah, there are some rumors flying around the Internet that E.C. Myers is Superman. I mean, he’s got two novels coming out this year. He’s represented by the super-selective Eddie Schneider over at JABberwocky Literary. And, of course, there’s the photographic evidence…

(credit for the coolest engagement photo ever: Ellen Wright)

But rather than speculating further about his secret identity, I bet he’d rather I just gave you the lowdown on Fair Coin.

Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day. 

Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin—a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own. 

The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted—if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.

The official release date is March 6, but rumor has it that it’s already begun to ship and hit the shelves in some places! You can find Fair Coin at:  Indiebound   **   B&N  **  Amazon  **  Powell’s  **  BAM 


Eugene (that’s the “E” in “E.C.”) was gracious enough to answer my questions about the book, his writing process, and his tips for aspiring writers. Here goes!

Tell us about the process of writing Fair Coin. When did you start, where did you write, and how long did it take you to finish?

I started writing the book at the end of February 2007 and finished at the end of July, so it was about five months to a very rough first draft. At the time, I didn’t have to be at my day job until 10:30 a.m., so I went to Grounded, my favorite coffee shop in NYC, to write at 9 every morning. On a good day, I can write around 1000 words in an hour, and they really add up when you write every day. I revised the book for another eight months, through several more drafts, before it was ready to submit to agents.

Did you have the whole book plotted out before you started writing?

Not at all! I knew the beginning, the middle, and the very last scene, and I had ideas for a few scenes throughout, but I wrote it organically from start to finish. I didn’t even have all the characters worked out yet; minor characters ended up becoming much more significant, and their personalities asserted themselves as I wrote the rough draft. The last three chapters of the book were completely different from what’s in the final book. I like the freedom of drafting, knowing that I can fix or change everything during revision. I just concentrate on finding the story and getting it all down as quickly as possible.

From the sample chapters I’ve read of Fair Coin, I know that you’re exploring a rather dark, sinister concept with some funny, quirky prose. Did you find it challenging to strike the right balance in tone in writing this book?

I think it’s important to keep a good sense of humor even while awful things are happening, and I try to convey that through my characters. Most of the humor comes in dialogue, even while they’re in the middle of dire situations. That just feels more honest to me. At the same time, it can be a problem if they’re being too snarky, or too irreverent—and especially too punny—at really inappropriate moments, because that undercuts tension and deflates the emotional impact when you need it. So it’s definitely a balancing act. I didn’t set out to write a grim book, but the characters are dealing with serious matters. My early drafts probably start out with too much humor and then I have to pare it back when my beta readers point out areas where it’s getting in the way.

What’s your favorite scene in your book (and why)?

My favorite is probably a conversation between Ephraim and his mother as she’s getting ready to go out on a date. He shows her a present he’s received from Jena, the girl he likes: a book, naturally. He’s a bit underwhelmed by the gesture, until his mother tells him that his father wooed her with books, and that this gift was the most personal thing Jena could have given him. I kind of love all of their moments together in the book, but I that’s the one I keep thinking about.

Which of the characters in Fair Coin is the most like you were as a teenager?

I think I was probably a mix of Ephraim, Nathan, and Jena, which is an interesting realization to have. I’ve never really thought about it before. Of course, there are bits of me and my experiences and people I know in all of my characters, but I think I sort of divided myself up between those three main characters, and that might explain why they work so well together.

For the still-aspiring authors out there, any advice regarding keeping your sanity during the querying or submissions process?

Work on your next book! I drafted the sequel to Fair Coin while I was querying agents, which was not the most practical thing to do considering I didn’t know if it would ever sell, but years later I’m glad I wrote it while I was still close to the characters and setting. And when I had that exciting phone call with Eddie, when he offered representation, I think he was encouraged by the fact that I had just completed the first draft of Quantum Coin a couple of days before. I’d say that most agents are already thinking beyond your first book, and having the discipline to write every day and having a demonstrated ability to write more than one book counts for something.

While Fair Coin was on submission, I decided to ignore the sequel until I had to think about it again. Instead, I started writing a completely different, standalone book, a YA alternate history book about reincarnation titled Who We Used to Be. It kept me busy and gave me hope, because even if Fair Coin didn’t sell, I knew I would have another chance at publication. It was a way to make myself less invested in the fate of Fair Coin. And in some ways, I think Who We Used to Be is a bigger and even better book, even though I still love my first two. Basically, don’t just pin all your hopes and dreams on one book, whether you’re querying agents or on submission. You have a lot of stories to tell, and very often, your first novel (or your first several novels) will not sell.

I know that you have a sequel in the works for Fair Coin. When can we expect for it to be released?

Quantum Coin is planned for fall 2012, which feels pretty soon. I just turned in my final draft, but there’s still a lot of copyediting and proofing ahead of us, and there may be other changes to the manuscript throughout the production process, so I’m not nearly done with it yet!


After all that talk about Fair Coin, it seems only fair (heh heh) to give you a chance to win your very own signed ARC. To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is be a resident of the US or Canada and leave a comment on this blog entry. But there are several easy ways to get extra entries, too!

1) Post about this contest on Twitter (+2 entries), Facebook (+2 entries), and/or your blog (+4 entries!) for up to EIGHT extra chances to win! (Right? Right. Ah, math.) Please paste the link(s) to your Tweet, post, etc. into your comment here to get credit for them.

Sample Tweet:
Meet YA author @ecmyers and win a signed ARC of his debut, FAIR COIN! http://bit.ly/xEd3kf

Sample FB status update:
Meet YA author E.C. Myers and enter to win a signed ARC of his debut, FAIR COIN! http://taradairman.com/2012/03/05/get-ready-to-flip-for-ecmyers-and-win-his-book

2) “Like” Fair Coin on Facebook at www.facebook.com/flipthecoin. Let me know you did in your comment for +1 entry!

3) Follow @ecmyers on Twitter, and paste your Twitter handle into your comment for proof. (+1 entry!)

4) Add Fair Coin on Goodreads and paste your username into your comment here. (+3 entries!)

Last note: If you’ve already left a comment but then do something else to spread the word that earns you more entries, just leave another comment with links to whatever new posts you’ve made. Thanks!

This contest is open until midnight on Thursday, March 8 (EST). I’ll count up all the entries, flip a coin 400 times to pick a winner (or possibly just feed the entries into random.org), and announce the lucky recipient of the signed ARC on Friday.

Sage words from Steinbeck.

Anyone out there who’s writing a book, or is trying to get a book published, or is dealing with writing or publishing in any way really ought to check out yesterday’s “Letter of Note” by John Steinbeck.

Some choice excerpts:

A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.

He is so stupid you can’t trust him with an idea.
He is so clever he will catch you in the least error.
He will not buy short books.
He will not buy long books.
He is part moron, part genius and part ogre.
There is some doubt as to whether he can read.

Lots more here.

OK, admit it–who else has written “a page like a wet and mangy mongrel” recently? 😀

In which I direct you elsewhere.

As you’ve probably guessed from the lack of recent posts, I’ve been a little swamped lately–with writing, with work, with Downton Abbey (yes, my priorities are in order). But Downton‘s wrapped up now, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with my revisions, and I hope to have some more material to share here on the blog next week.

In the meantime, here are a few goodies to keep you occupied!

1. How writing a novel is like falling in love, Jane Austen-style: From blind Lydia-Wickham love, to Elizabeth-Darcy hate, to Elizabeth-Darcy true love, this clever blog post by Beth Revis is spot-on about both the writing/revising process and Pride & Prejudice. What’s not to love?

2. Fair Coin is coming! I’m counting the days until E.C. Myers‘s debut YA sci-fi novel, Fair Coin drops (it’s coming in early March), but if you click “like” on the Pyr Young Adult page on Facebook, you can read the first three chapters now! I did this last week, and it left me chomping at the bit for the full story of Ephraim and the coin that makes his wishes come true…with freaky, dire consequences, of course. 😉

You want more, you say? Well, here’s the book trailer! (What’s a book trailer, you ask? It’s like a movie trailer, but for a…oh, you can figure this one out, can’t you?)



3. And one more video, just for fun…


“Magic. Duh.”